The Best Hot Dog You Can Purchase at a Washington Area Grocery Store Part 1

by Richard Blackman

Gary in the back sneaking a taste while cutting into quarters

Inspired by an article online Top Dog: Who Makes the Best Kosher Supermarket Hot Dog in America, my friend Gary Cahn and I decided to do our own taste test of the hot dogs we could find in the Washington, DC area.

We had previously completed seven annual trips to find the best delis in the New York Washington corridor but we hadn’t focused on hot dogs, especially supermarket dogs. We researched the websites and the local supermarkets to try and find the top of the line. We then invited our hot dog loving friends over for a “blind” taste test on May 15 2016, to see for ourselves what we thought were the best. We discovered that folks have different tastes when it comes to hot dogs and we were surprised by the results. I expected Nathans, Hebrew National and Abeles and Heyman (I tried them last month and was kind of blown away) to come out on top. Didn’t quite happen that way. The only true consensus was that nobody particularly liked Applegate.

Richard interpreting results

So many choices

We had 14 total testers. Some of the qualities of our taster friends which put them on the invite list are below:One had put away five Nathans hot dogs at my house in one sitting a couple of years agoAnother’s parents owned a famous deli in NashvilleA third had corned beef stations at their kid’s Bat MitzvahsMy daughter decided pigs and blankets would be a “must-have” item at her Bat Mitzvah and wedding back when she was a little kidAnother is from New Jersey and a big fan of the “Save the Deli” Facebook pageAnother is obsessed with Carnegie Deli Corned Beef Unfortunately, Ellen (of the “Ellen Loves Pastrami” Facebook page and a member of the “Hot Dog Nation” page), was unable to make the trek from Atlantic City.

All the dogs were cooked on a Weber gas grill except for the Nathan’s which we cooked on a “Nathan’s” griddle inside. (I had previously tried Nathans on both an outside grill and the “Nathans” griddle and the griddle version tasted much more like those at Nathan’s eateries). The rolls were Martin’s Potato rolls (as suggested by a wide margin of the “Hot Dog Nation” Facebook page participants) —they were good. Mustards were Nathans and Guldens. Sauerkraut was offered but no other condiments.

After cooking, we put the dogs on rolls and cut them into fourths. We did three rounds, 3 or 4 brands per round – we could only fit so many on the grill at one time. (Four brands in round 1, four in round 2 and three more in the final round). We asked participants to rate them on a 1 to 10 basis – 10 being one of the best ever, 1 - well, you wouldn’t feed to your dog. From Sabrett and up, all the hot dogs rated an average of six or above. None of the brands rated an average of over eight.

David recording his scores

Jeff mulling the latest bite

The entire event took approximately two hours and I can honestly say, it was time well-spent by all. I’m still sticking with Nathan’s, Hebrew National, Abeles and Heyman, and (newly discovered) Aarons. But the blind taste results are the blind taste results, reported here. I suggest folks make their own decisions. In the meantime, I expect we’ll do this again next year. Actually, I’m already looking forward to it.

This was serious business

Below are the dogs we tried and a summary of the results. Details of the scoring are also available. Aaron’s Best Beef and Wagshalls House Brand (a local DC-area supermarket) came out on top. All were beef dogs.

In 2018 we conducted a second taste test of Washington area hot dogs.